One in four Canadians dies of cancer.
One in 15 Canadian children is born with a rare disease.
One in 66 Canadian children is diagnosed with autism.
COVID-19 claimed the lives of over 40,000 Canadians.
The health and economic impacts of genetic and related diseases are enormous.
DNAstack is a Canadian software company that accelerates discoveries in genetic research by connecting and analyzing globally distributed datasets.
Tell us about yourself?
I wanted to be a doctor but was always drawn toward computer science. In university, I met Dan, who would later become my best friend. Dan had Cystic Fibrosis, a rare disorder caused by a single genetic defect that makes it very difficult to breathe, among other things. Dan made me realize the enormous health, economic, and societal impacts that genetic diseases have and inspired my co-founders and me to start DNAstack. The name DNAstack is a double entendre: we have built a technology stack for genomics research that helps scientists find molecular causes of disease from the billions of letters that make up our DNA, needles in a genetic haystack.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Be opportunistic! COVID-19 changed the world’s priorities overnight. We made a decision that – at the time – was difficult; to allocate as many of our resources as we could to support the Canadian response to COVID-19. We made partners provincially, nationally, and internationally. We launched groundbreaking products that are now helping us better understand infectious diseases, autism, and cancer. We were selected by the World Economic Forum as one of this year’s Technology Pioneers. At the time, we didn’t know that by being resourceful, opportunistic, and doing what we thought was needed for our country, we would hit an inflection point in our ability to drive impact globally.
What problem does your business solve?
In order to understand genetic diseases, scientists need a lot of data. The problem is that data is siloed – in different organizations, clouds, provinces, and countries. DNAstack’s software makes it possible to connect, search, access, and analyze federated networks of genomics and health data. This is giving scientists unprecedented ability to understand, diagnose, and treat genetic and related diseases with molecular precision.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
The human genome has 6 billion letters. A mutation of just one of those letters can change your life. You can be born with a genetic disorder, or you can develop one. My best friend lost his fight to cystic fibrosis at 36, which he was born with. My grandmother lost her fight to lung cancer, which we discovered only months before her death. DNAstack exists to help us harness the power of genomic data to better understand, diagnose, and treat all kinds of genetic diseases that affect millions of people globally. We solve the problem by creating specialty-specific federated networks of data that make it possible to make discoveries faster than otherwise possible.
What is your magic sauce?
DNAstack is a pioneer in genomic data sharing. We are one of the first companies to make it possible to create globally federated networks of genomics and health data. For the first time, scientists are able to discover, access, and analyze life-saving data at planet scale.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
DNAstack is changing the way genomics research is done at a foundational level, powered less by individual efforts and more through global collaboration. We are actively building an “internet for genomics and biomedical research” that – much like the internet itself – we hope will create new norms for sharing information faster than we had ever imagined. I want to look back in five years, knowing we helped create a tectonic shift in how discoveries are made and the future of medicine is practiced.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Innovation in healthcare can be uncomfortable. Our biggest challenge is overcoming the inertia of doing things the old way, disrupting the status quo because we genuinely believe there is no other way to realize the potential of genomic and precision medicine but by implementing digital solutions that embrace new approaches, like federation, cloud computing, and AI.
How can people get involved?
You can learn more at www.dnastack.com